So, What Are You Freakin' Well Reading Now? part (ii)

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N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture
So, What Are You Freakin' Well Reading Now? part (ii)

blank first post. Previous thread is OVER HERE.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

An interesting article about Cosmology, outer space under current capitalism, and humanizing the cosmos was recently published in Monthly Review by Peter Dickens. Dickens has a forthcoming article in 2011 in the Journal of Critical Realism.

What's of note are a few things. First of all, it's worth noting that "despite the growing number of critiques of Big Bang, however, the theory remains central to contemporary cosmology." Actually, it's almost an article of faith. Which is a little weird for any science, hmm? "For a vocal minority of cosmologists, the Big Bang actually never happened and the "evidence" for the Big Bang accumulated by COBE remains highly questionable."

Anyway, if you want to read more: For discussion and critique of Big Bang theory, see Eric Lerner, The Big Bang Never Happened (New York: Vintage, 1992); Frankel H. Norris, Out of This World (Ashmore: Cardiff University Press, 2003); Lyndon Ashmore, "Big Bang Blasted!" Booksurge, LLC, (no place of publication given). Alan Woods, Ted Grant, Reason in Revolt (London: Wellred Publications, 1995); Peter Mason, Science and the Big Bang: A Critical Review of 'Reason in Revolt' (London: Socialist Publications, 2007); Peter Dickens, "Society, Subjectivity and the Cosmos" (forthcoming), Journal of Critical Realism (2011).

Secondly, Dickens draws attention to the orthodox capitalist approach to space and contrasts that with a humanistic vision of the cosmos. He calls this vision ... "Humanizing Without Colonizing the Cosmos". A more socially just vision of space on the one hand, and, on the other hand, views like the Space Renaissance Initiative (sound familiar?). These latter sorts of views go together with "solutions" to our current ecological and environmental problems in which we get more of the same; these are solutions that seem to "simultaneously exacerbate current social problems while jetting away from them."

Anyway, read for yourself.

Humanization of the Cosmos ... or more of the same? etc.



Oh, I thought that was the "Big Bank Theory" where the idea that they are too big to fail is taken as an article of faith... Thanks for explaining this.


Meanwhile... I am reading "Mounties in Mukluks" by Patrick White. I love these old stories that describe life in the early 20th C. The amount of fish in the seas was astounding back then. The way they thrived and survived is quite interesting to me.


Without electricity... we just might "go native" and sing and dance a little more often instead of just listening to recorded music all the time. More sex too, I bet. But ya, I do appreciate my computer so I can post at Rabble.


Columbine by Dave Cullen. Compelling, yet requires frequent breaks in reading.


Phil Donohue's autobiography. 

Nancy Reagan by Kitty Kelly. 


Sinclair Lewis, in his 1935 novel, It Can't Happen Here, eerily presages the teabaggers of today.


Right after a description of a street fight between "Minute Men" (Seems the" Spirit of '76" is fertile ground for modern propagandists, whenever they are) and various commies and other degenerates, Lewis describes a gathering of supporters of a populist demagogue at Madison Square Garden:


These past weeks hungry miners, dispossessed farmers, Carolina mill hands had greeted Senator Windrip with a flutter of worn hands beneath gasoline torches. Now he was to face, not the unemployed, for they could not afford fifty-cent tickets, but the small, scared side-street traders of New York, who considered themselves altogether superior to clodhoppers and mine-creepers, yet were as desperate as they. The swelling mass that Doremus saw, proud in seats or standing chin-to-nape in the aisles, in a reek of dampened clothes, was not romantic; they were people concerned with the tailor's goose, the tray of potato salad, the card of hooks-and-eyes, the leech-like mortgage on the owner-driven taxi, with, at home, the baby's diapers, the dull safety-razor blade, the awful rise in the cost of rump steak and kosher chicken. And a few, and very proud, civil-service clerks and letter carriers and superintendents of small apartment houses, curiously fashionable in seventeen-dollar ready-made suits and feebly stitched foulard ties, who boasted, "I don't know why all these bums go on relief. I may not be such a wiz, but let me tell you, even since 1929, I've never made less than two thousand dollars a year!"

Manhattan peasants. Kind people, industrious people, generous to their aged, eager to find any desperate cure for the sickness of worry over losing the job.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Wow, I am reading the same book right now, al-Q. Along with Dracula. What a fun book! (Dracula, I mean. ICHH is fun too, I suppose, but in a much different way.)

Lttle Mudddy

 I'm re-reading "How Israel Lost It's Soul". by Maxim Ghilan, printed in 1974 by Pelican. He was quite a courageous journalist who exposed the assassination of the Moroccan nationalist Mehdi Ben-Barka by the Israeli Mossad and was jailed for that and 3 times for his various journalistic endeavors. It's content which includes many of the original documents of the Zionist leaders is enthralling. He died a few years ago.

 My next rereading is another Pellican book titled "The Arabs" by Edward Atiya, a remarkable book on the Arab world first published in !955. A Lebanese-Christian academic active in the Arab east who at one point organized the Arab Office in London. Obviously not one of the Mullahs.

 Just to refresh my memory of the background to the present catastrophic and dreadful events in the theocratic-Israel/Palastinian tragedy.


Papal Bull

I just finished up On The Road by Jack Kerouac. I really enjoyed it.


Right now I have the Lazarus Project by...some dude from Serbia, I think? and Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse. I'm going through Steppenwolf at the moment and I'm about 50 pages in. Maybe it was the translator, I can't speak to a German reading of the book, but the prologue/intro was kind of Lovecraftian. Should I expect a violinist who looks into the void of nothing but terror cropping up at any point?


Hmm, this is either really eerie, or really mundane.  I read On the Road at around the same time I read just about the complete works of Hermann Hesse.

Please tell me you don't listen to The Doors these days too.


[]Sex at Dawn[/url]=The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality.

Mainstream science—as well as religious and cultural institutions—has long maintained that men and women evolved in nuclear families where a man’s possessions and protection were exchanged for a woman’s fertility and fidelity. But this narrative is collapsing. Fewer and fewer couples are getting married and divorce rates keep climbing while adultery and flagging libido drag down even seemingly solid marriages.

Several types of evidence suggest our pre-agricultural (prehistoric) ancestors lived in groups where most mature individuals would have had several ongoing sexual relationships at any given time. Though often casual, these relationships were not random or meaningless. Quite the opposite: they reinforced crucial social ties holding these highly interdependent communities together.

Very interesting book. 

Papal Bull

al-Qa'bong wrote:

Hmm, this is either really eerie, or really mundane.  I read On the Road at around the same time I read just about the complete works of Hermann Hesse.

Please tell me you don't listen to The Doors these days too.


Lots of Sun-Ra and jazz? I'm not sure if that is a step better or worse.


I dunno, man.  That sounds like a symptom of too much tea and soft foods and goofy kicks on the cool order.

Papal Bull

How did you know I have a cup of, erm, steaming....early grey? Innocent


Is The Simpsons on in your timezone, too?


A.E. Van Vogt, The Anarchistic Colossus (1977)


   In The Anarchistic Colossus a future Earth operates as a mixed anarchy controlled by computers; aliens perceive the conquest of Earth as the payoff to a wargame. The anarchist Earth society is an extraordinary hybrid of socialist, capitalist, and bohemian variants of anarchism; it had apparently been instigated by the rightists, who still control two thirds of the economy. 'Techs' had contributed the elimination of crime: sensors detect violent intent before the event, and intercept the attacker (all other actions are free from control). The 'Caps' and the 'Coops' are apparently able to work together; they collaborate on universal military training, so that everyone has a basic understanding of 'the ethics of an anarchistic state of war' - indeed 'Anarchistic space warcraft' are programmed with anarchist war ethics (c. 31).

   Van Vogt in this work finds anarchism all-pervasive: it is not only the norm in Earth society, the human brain itself is a 'colossal anarchistic complexity' (c . 35), and at the other end of the scale 'The universe itself is in a colossal anarchistic condition' (c . 27). Typically Van Vogtian, this is one of the most bizarre visions of anarchism in all sf.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

John Steinbeck Novels 1942-1952

The Moon is Down (just finished this one which is about resistance in an unnamed Nazi-occupied country in Scandanavia) I figure this might come in handy for practical advice here in North America. Steinbeck had originally intended to write a book about Nazi occupation of North America but changed the topic on the request of the publisher. Maybe if he had written it we'd have had a model for such a story and would have had fewer idiot movies involving the late Pat Swayzey saving aMerrrica from Sov bloc invasion.

Cannery Row, The Pearl, and East of Eden.


Here is the first, famous paragraph from Cannery Row

John Steinbeck wrote:
Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses. Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, 'whores, pimps, gamblers and sons of bitches,' by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, 'Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men,' and he would have meant the same thing.


I'm reading Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food by Paul Greenberg. So far, so good!

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

I wonder if there will be a review of it on Not My Typewriter!


I think there might be! Thanks for the line to MY NEW BLOG, catchfire! :)


When Atheism Becomes Religion: America's New Fundamentalists [Paperback]

 by Chris Hedges



I am about 1/4 through "Last Child in the Woods" by Richard Louv.


Just finished Thomas Geoghegan's excellent travelogue/rant/politico-economic thesis "Were You Born On The Wrong Continent?" (NY: New Press, 2010) It is a meditation on what life might be like for the average member of the hard-pressed, now vanishing American middle class if they were to live in a European social democracy. Geoghegan is a Chicago labour lawyer who has become familiar with Europe, especially Germany, over the years. While his book rambles and contains a bit of Michael Moore-type faux-naivete, it's superb at uncovering all the hidden injuries inflicted by the brutal Anglo-American variant of capitalism. While we in Canada haven't succumbed (yet) to its worst excesses, it's still a bit of a shock to see the petty slights and impositions we unquestioningly accept laid bare.

Geoghegan's no cheerleader. He acknowledges the manifest problems in the German model. But he also points out its amazing resilience and success. As of 2009, Germany, with its 80 million citizens, rigid labour markets, and millstone Eastern sector, exported more goods by value than any other nation on Earth, including those let-'er-rip capitalist paragons America (pop. 300 million odd) and China (1 billion plus). The reason? In large part, social democracy. As he notes, "German worker control contributes to a group interaction that over time not only builds up but protects a certain amount of human capital, especially in engineering and quality control. It's the kind of group knowledge that our efficient ‘flexible' labour markets so readily break up and disperse. We spend vastly more on basic research than the Germans do...We spend more on higher education. But with our flexible labour markets, we're unable to capitalize on this research and education...What's distinctive about Germany is the privileged position the worker has within the firm. And it's that privileged position that explains how our own middle-class way of life can survive....With our flexible labour markets we cannot develop the human capital or knowledge needed to wean ourselves away from turning out crap. In global competition the U.S. has almost every comparative advantage over Germany, but the one great advantage Germany still has over us is that it is a social democracy."

What makes it galling for an American is that Rhineland capitalism was an invention of the United States, or more particularly the US Army of occupation after the war. Distrusting German big business, but fearful of the Reds, the Americans evolved a system of worker consultation and control that checked and balanced corporate and union demands. This cleverness reflected the fact that the US Army was in 1945 a citizen army and had many New Dealers in its upper echelons. So the irony today of being able to walk into a local of IG Metall and find that (!) Dwight D Eisenhower is considered not so much a foreign general as a founder of the post-war labour renascence. And much of Geoghegan's research was funded by the German Marshall Fund, an offshoot of the original fund proposed by General George Marshall. Hard to imagine such a pair at the Pentagon these days.

One quibble. The book has a good index, but no bibliography. You'll have to run down sources yourself. But I'd recommend this book to anyone, most of all to those pur-et-dur leftists who think that social democracy is some plot to co-opt working-class energy. Read these pages to realize what an immense, yes, life-changing difference an efficient social democracy can make to the live of the vast majority of citizens.


remind remind's picture

The Land of Painted Caves - Jean M Auel


I read 84, Charing Cross Road last night. I'm dying to see the film.


Underground: My Life with the SDS and the Weathermen by Mark Rudd.

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on the full summer issue of Monthly Review. This year, it focuses on Education Under Fire: The U.S. Corporate Assault on Students, Teachers and Schools.

Something positive to lift my spirits would be good, too.

Freedom 55

Just finished Sarah Vowell's Unfamiliar Fishes; and Seth Tobocman's graphic anthology, Disaster and Resistance.


Currently reading Chris Hedges' Death of the Liberal Class.


"A History of Iran" by Micheal Axworthy. Excellent book.


"State of War" by James Risen, a NY Times reporter. The subtitle reads "The secret history of the CIA and the Bush Administration".

 It tells of the crimes of Bush and the CIA, of course. This seems like a departure from the usual mainstream media in that it is unflattering towards several major politicians.


Published in 2006, I found it, apparently unread, at our local public library book sale, for only $1.

That surprised me that it is so unpopular, I thought people would be interested in the details of "Baby Bush telling lies to go to war on". Oh ya, we live in THIS world, riiiight... where most people forget the very recent past as soon as the next day comes along.


Example of the book's themes -

 About Iraq, the CIA was screaming the facts about "NO WMD", and "NO NIGERIAN YELLOW CAKE", but the White House refused to pass the messages on to Pres. Bush 2 - I am sure he said to do that, so he would have an excuse - "blame it on the intelligence we got" [even though the intelligence was being shut out].

  Other gems about bin Laden not getting caught, and troop numbers restricted by Rumsfeld... and how Afganistan was abandoned for the invasion of Iraq [despite Iraq not being the threat Bush and Cheney made it out to be].



Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968).

Had to go interlibrary for this one. Another sad case of a library system NOT retaining the classics so that following generations can better appreciate the lives of their forbears - in this case the 1960s, brilliantly set out for viewing by a magazine writer who has since become known for her novels.

Her style is brief, descriptive of her feelings, with acute perception of her surroundings - some might say influenced by Hemingway, but far more intelligent and understanding of her readers' concerns. Political. Her husband had just written a book, Delano, on the California grapeworkers' strike.

I can't explain why it took this long to get at it. It has shown up often, over the years, as a must read for anyone wanting to better understand life in 1960s, urban California when the sky was the limit. In a foreword, her inspiration for the book's title, the poem by W.B.Yeats, is presented along with a one-liner from the singer, "Miss Peggy Lee: I learned courage from Buddha, Jesus, Lincoln, Einstein and Cary Grant."

I wonder if her marvelous journalism in the days of magazines is there in her fiction, or if, as Peggy Lee asked in her senior years, "Is that all there is, My Friend?" Must find out.

autoworker autoworker's picture

Orhan Pamuk's ISTANBUL

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

reading David Foster Wallace's Consider the Lobster.

amazing read! enjoying it thoroughly and absolutely completely.

Just about to dive into the Babble Book Club selection of Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle! Excited!

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Go The FUCK To Sleep and All My Friends Are Dead


I'm trying to think of something witty or literary I've read in the past while, and I have a list of great authors and books, but I have to (shoulders down, scuffing a foot) admit to a guilty pleasure - crime/mystery/suspense novels.  They are to me what TV is to others.  Currently reading an American guy named Michael Koryta.

knownothing knownothing's picture

Challenges and Perils: Social Democracy in NeoLiberal Times

A little outdated but very revealing about Rae, Romanow, and BC NDP governments.


That should be required reading for babble, kn. The "outdated" part is the history of the growth of the problem for social democracy, eh? In a way, it explains why social democrats in Quebec came over to the NDP - with lots of convincing by Jack and Tom Mulcair - in the age of Globalization. Damned hard to sell social democracy at the national level, let alone provincial, these days. The book could use more political economy, I believe. The Chicago School influence on corporate decision-making? How the worker was co-opted, etc.

knownothing knownothing's picture

Gaian wrote:
That should be required reading for babble, kn. The "outdated" part is the history of the growth of the problem for social democracy, eh? In a way, it explains why social democrats in Quebec came over to the NDP - with lots of convincing by Jack and Tom Mulcair - in the age of Globalization. Damned hard to sell social democracy at the national level, let alone provincial, these days. The book could use more political economy, I believe. The Chicago School influence on corporate decision-making? How the worker was co-opted, etc.

The only way to sell social democracy and socialism is to broaden the debate. People need to start talking about nationalizing industry on the air. We need to be more anti-war on the air. Not necessarily the party that has to say it but people in general. The debate in this country is so limited to free market and neo-liberal economic theories that the electorate will always see us as a threat.

Why do we never hear stories about Chavez bringing home the gold on the National?

Because that would broaden debate about the possible choices Canadian governments have. It is radical or nothing. If the NDP tries to pussyfoot its way to equailty it will be destroyed just like all the other parties that had good intentions.


for a light read, I tried David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty Some Day, and the short pieces in there are  mixed but some are funny;

notable is the huge huge split among reviewers and critics, some saying Sedaris a hilarious wry observer of small American vignettes, others saying whaaa??, not funny at all ....

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

The Wayfinders, Wade Davis The link here is of a YouTube video with Davis. I particularly like his blunt statement: "Race is a fiction." ... although it might be more precise to say that race is a biological fiction and social invention ... whose main purpose seems to be the substantiation and justification of ethnic cleansing, genocide, and all the other blessings of Western "civilization".

The Massey Lectures of ...


Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

DaveW wrote:

for a light read, I tried David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty Some Day, and the short pieces in there are  mixed but some are funny;

notable is the huge huge split among reviewers and critics, some saying Sedaris a hilarious wry observer of small American vignettes, others saying whaaa??, not funny at all ....

I am on the 'Sedaris loving' side and particularly love this book.

I like the divide he creates in his stories in (1) learning to become a writer and (2) the process of being a writer


George Orwell, "Burmese Days," (1934).  He was a police officer in Burma in the 1920s.  I love his writing.  I doubt there are many, or any, babblers with nostalgic feelings towards British Imperialism, but if there are, reading this book will cure them....  next, "Down and Out in Paris and London."

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

I love reading Orwell. I wrote a report on one of his books in around 1968 and won a book prize from Richard J. Needham of the Mope and Wail; and Needham treated me to High Tea at the old King Eddy.

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

Me, less so. But then I've had High Tea at the Empress without having to write a line. heh.

I think it was Orwell who wrote Politics and the English Language ... well before Chomsky wrote similar things in the US. That had a big effect on me at one time. Chris Dafoe was also writing for the Vancouver Sun in those days and had a few interesting columns.

See The Orwell We Never Knew for his blacklisting efforts at the end of his life.  Not so admirable.


Boom Boom wrote:

I love reading Orwell. I wrote a report on one of his books in around 1968 and won a book prize from Richard J. Needham of the Mope and Wail; and Needham treated me to High Tea at the old King Eddy.

Did you and Needham get into the subject of the futility - uselessness, harmful effect - of schooling. Boomer? :) I envy you the contact.

And Greg Clark had retired to the King Eddy a couple of years before that. Met him there in the winter of 1969. Sometime after he had led his platoon up the ridge at Vimy.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

I like books about science, and I'm reading "The Quirks and Quarks Guide To Space" (2008). It has a CBC copyright from the television series.


Currently reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami for the Babble Book Club. Also enjoying a re-read of Orwell's Animal Farm and about to dive into The Night Circus by erin Morgenstern for my local book club.


Being and Time by Martin Heidegger.  I've avoided reading Heidegger thus far but felt I had to give this book at least an attempt due to the numerous references made of it in other tracts.  Borrowed it two weeks ago from a friend, and I'm already nearing the end of page two.

knownothing knownothing's picture

Harperland - Lawrence Martin

People's History of the United States - Howard Zinn


infracaninophile infracaninophile's picture

Ah, knownothing, we must be on a similar wavelength. I read Harperland recently and followed it up last week with Rogue in Power:

..a disturbing read, definitely not one either for bedtime or depressive moments.

It presents a very closely argued treatment of the truth of Harper's own claim that he would make Canada unrecognizable by the end of his reign.... and it seems to be happening on schedule. The book is less clear about how to abort this train wreck, although the author does take an optimistic view. I didn't feel optimistic after reading it, though.

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

[finishing up Beauty Plus Pity because again I leave everything to the last minute]

moving on to Better Living Through Plastic Explosives by Zsuzsi Gartner, which a friend lent me in a drunken stupor wherein she usually gives her books away.

Here's a bit more info, but it sounds right up my alley as she was an accomplished short fiction writer -- a balance between Lorrie Moore and McSweeny's articles -- and has now produced this collection of short stories. 

Canadian fiction short story collections are my jam.

Kaitlin McNabb Kaitlin McNabb's picture

I just picked up the essay collection "My Misspent Youth" by Meghan Daum, a satirical essayist, after reading this top 10 list on Flavorwire.

Excited about the Joan Didion comparisons, references to American culture, and This American Life ties. I have read the foreword, and so far so good.